Nov. 17, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK – The opening day of duck season is finally within reach, and for some that means a lot of gear shuffling and a last-minute dash to make sure boat motors and equipment are in working order. Biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission urge all hunters and anglers alike to pull the plug on invasive species by pulling the plug from their boats after every trip to the water.
Arkansas fishermen have heard the mantra “Clean, Drain and Dry” for years, but anglers aren’t the only boaters in Arkansas that can do their part. Waterfowl hunters’ boats likely spend just as much, if not more, time in flooded vegetation and muddy areas where invasive plants such as giant salvinia and water hyacinth lurk. Before leaving the boat ramp for home or a new hunting destination, always make sure your boat plug is pulled and allowed to drain. That way any invasive species that may exist on the area won’t be transported to new locations.
“Preventing the spread of invasive species is the best way to fight them,” Matt Horton, Invasive Species Program coordinator for the AGFC, said. “Once they become established, fighting them can be a full-time job and take away manpower and resources from all of the other habitat work that needs to be done.”
Horton knows all about time in the trenches fighting invasive plants. As manager of Lake Conway, he spent countless hours manipulating water levels, spraying herbicides and working with contractors to remove nasty weeds like Alligatorweed, which can double in size every 30 days during warm weather.
“Giant salvinia is even scarier,” Horton said. “With the right conditions, it can double in size in a week. It smothers all the other vegetation, makes access nearly impossible, and offers little to no benefit for wildlife or fish.”
The AGFC and other states are so concerned about invasive species, that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and other states have made it state law to remove all drain plugs from your boat before leaving the boat ramp each time you take your boat from the water.
The spread of invasive aquatic plants typically is associated with spring and summer boating because that’s when the plants grow the fastest and become a nuisance, but it’s a year-round issue, especially in the southern half of the state. Plant fragments can survive some cold weather, and the seeds from the plants also will be viable to carry on the next spring. Some of the swampy backwater areas duck hunters scout and hunt offer the perfect out-of-the-way place for these plants to establish themselves and spread even further.
Hunters can help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species by following the three-step process of clean, drain and dry anytime they move to new water:
- Clean all equipment – Remove all plants and pieces of vegetation, seeds and mud off your waders, decoys, boat, truck, blind and trailer.
- Drain your boat – Remove the drain plug from your boat when you leave the water.
- Dry – Let all gear dry for at least five days before visiting new waters. If drying is not an option, spray all equipment with a high-pressure hose or hot water.
Visit www.cleandraindry.org for more information about invasive species and what hunters can do to help.